Local newspapers have it hard when it comes to claiming a slice of the billions of ad dollars spent online. Big marketers that want to send a message to the masses are more likely to turn to big Web companies such as Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft (MSFT), and the vast networks they're tapped into. "What [national advertisers] have always done is seek the easiest solution—a couple of big portals—to give them national reach," says Jack Williams, president of Gannett Digital Ventures, the online division of the Gannett (GCI) newspaper chain.
But now, companies representing 174 small papers and other publications are banding together to make their task easier. Four of the nation's largest newspaper owners, Gannett, Hearst, New York Times (NYT), and the Tribune, have formed an advertising consortium dedicated to attracting marketers that seek big audiences through local channels.